By “The Photographer’s Assistant”
This morning the Assistant awoke at 5:30. The Assistant opened the little window wide to see, to her relief, no frost as the first morning bird arose. She believes that it is the nightingale. Its song is trill and it is always the first bird to rise, excited as it sees dawn and unable to maintain its silence. By 6:30 the noise outside the window is incredible. A cat can be heard rustling about in the undergrowth, looking for the first snack in its day long breakfast. Exactly at 7:00, a chainsaw starts up across the river. Goodness help you if you want a lie in at this time of the year, but the work must be done before winter. In the mist along the river, less than half a mile away lies one of the most expensive and exclusive hotels in Devon and the Metropolitan inhabitants are having a rude awakening to Dartmoor spring madness. Dartmoor, in the late spring, is, quite simply, full of frenetic activity. So long have the inhabitants been locked into barns, cottages, and warm clothes that the release is almost too much.
In the surrounding countryside various sights have been seen. Men are stripped down to virtually no clothing ( Poldark had better beware ) as they fight vast swaths of undergrowth. Women appear in skirts revealing legs not seen since last year. There is a general collecting of wild flowers and nearly every dwelling has vases stuffed full of hedgerow delights. Wild garlic is harvested and preserved ready for the winter. Wild garlic pesto is available in some village stores. Rabbit appears on country menus and men go into raptures as they taste the delights of the first rabbit pie of the season.
In the little town, people who only appear in late spring have begun to arrive, cars burdened with housefuls of summer clothes and town provisions. If you have been here all the winter, now you must get up early for your bread and paper, or the incomers will have them.
The shops are almost uninhabitable as spring shopping begins. The two local general stores are cued out from dawn to dusk. Inhabitants need chainsaw oil, strimmer cord, a new saw to attack any job, outside paint to protect buildings from fierce winters. Grow-bags for plants and bamboo supports are almost bound to run out. Camping gear and fold up chairs are in great demand and one store will even order that certain lawn mower for your circumstances. The visitors stand in the middle of this mayhem. They cannot believe the depth and range of goods that can be bought. There are saucepans and kettles mostly for kitchen ranges. There are coats and wellies, all types of country clothing. Local builders come in for the odd bit and piece. One lady is seeking the winter underwear catalogue. Many people have only seen this type of store in a classic TV drama. Talking of TV stars; you may be surprised at who you see, but we have a local rule that they are treated like the rest of us, and they like it that way!
At the little town clothes boutique, some beautiful clothes for summer are on display, and the male assistant is busy helping ladies with choices of colours. After a drab winter, vibrancy is required. Many outfits will be needed for weddings and the assistant is willing to spend any amount of time helping women to chose the best. There are no discs with numbers given out here. The customer really does come first. Weddings will be booked for what will hopefully be good weather. Indeed, some weddings are already on and the parking warden is having a field day as the new town car park has not yet been built.
In the deli, it is all about choice, especially with so many Devon cheeses and puddings on display. Customers are spilling out onto the pavement.
Out in the countryside, there are parties and meetings among neighbours, who may well not have seen one another since the autumn. Cakes are made to entertain special friends and the little town wine shop has been busy supplying every type of drink. The little town has a hotel and three pubs offering accommodation and on the warmer late spring nights inhabitants drift out onto the pavement.
There are a constant stream of events and soon the town swimming pool, with its own natural water supply will be opening. During the day, you and your child will be able to swim and at night, you will be able to party.
If you are coming to Dartmoor now, you will find the quiet reflective period over and you will need to be fit and energetic to join in.
So what of the Photographer and his Assistant? They get up very early now if they are walking to town. The walk is a sleepy one. It is early and they can still get breakfast at the Deli. They load up with their provisions and walk home in time for coffee. If their daughter is about, she will join in the breakfast. They will meet friends in their favourite cafe. They will buy a steak at the butchers shop and a good bottle of wine in the wine shop. People from away will visit. They will enjoy their garden produce. Above all, they will wake excited about the day ahead keenly aware that they are plain lucky to have another day in the place that is as close as The Assistant can imagine to paradise on earth.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, may you have a wonderful late spring and may your God go with you.
We have included a few entertaining pictures of the little towns election fever. The turn out was high and some of the sights had pathos and humour.